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Comprehensive Survival Guide for A Working Foreigner in Singapore

As a working foreigner in Singapore, you need to follow the strict protocol of the country. Learn how you can start with this guide.

As of April 2016, CNN named Singapore the best city for expats in Asia. However, it is no secret that moving to another country isn’t as easy as pie. Plans must be comprehensive and practical with clear objectives. Before buying the one-way ticket, make sure you’ve got a job waiting for you.


  • Foreigners must have high qualifications in skills in major industries: banking and finance, maritime services, IT, biomedical sciences, communications and media, chemicals, oil drilling equipment, electronics and precision engineering. It is no secret that even local residents compete for high paying jobs with premium benefits. So make sure you bring your best foot forward and convince your employer that you are the best choice.
  • Before you even go here, it is better if you already have lined up job interviews with employers. Here are Singapore’s major companies: DBS, Vitol Asia, BP Singapore, Exxon Mobil, CapitaLand, PetroChina International, Wilmar International, SK Energy International, Sinochem International Oil, and Shell Eastern Trading. Of course, there are some benefits of being in a known company. These big companies give good benefits. If you ever need a personal loan for foreignersmoney lenders usually prefer borrowers from a company with an unparalleled reputation.
  • Search for jobs online using a specific word aggregator in Singapore’s well-known job websites such as Contact Singapore, Jobs Central – Singapore, HigherEd Jobs, and Jobstreet – Singapore. With online searches, you can begin looking around and have an idea of the country’s available jobs. Also, you may pass your resume and schedule an interview online.
  • Work pass has different categories depending on the skill and level. For example, professionals can have an Employment Pass, EntrePass, or Personalized Employment Pass. In contrast, Skilled and semi-skilled workers can have S Pass or Work Permit for a foreign worker/foreign domestic worker/confinement nanny/performing artiste.

Work Pass for a Foreigner Working in Singapore

  1. An Employment pass is for foreign professionals, managers and executives who have to earn at least $3,300 a month with acceptable qualifications. Entre Pass is for a foreign entrepreneur. The Personalized Employment Pass has greater flexibility than the Employment pass. Candidates need to earn at least $3,300 a month and have acceptable qualifications.
  2. S Pass is for a mid-level skilled staff earning at least $2,200 a month. Work Permit for a foreign worker is for semi-skilled foreign workers in the construction, manufacturing, marine, process or services sectors. A work permit for foreign domestic workers is for domestic helpers, and Malaysian nannies have to permit a confinement nanny. Work Permit for performing artiste is for performers in hotels, nightclubs, and bars.
  • Trainees and students can work in Singapore with Training Employment Pass, Work Holiday Programme, and Training Work Permit. At the same time, family members should have a Dependent’s Pass/Long Term Visit Pass/Letter of Consent.

Permit for Relatives of a Foreigner Working in Singapore

  1. Training Employment Pass is for foreign professionals in current training who have a monthly income of at least $3,000. Work Holiday Programme is for students and graduates (18 to 25 years old) who want to work and holiday in Singapore for up to 6 months. In addition, semi-skilled foreign trainees who undergo practical training in Singapore for up to 6 months can have a training work permit.
  2. As for family members, spouses and children of eligible Employment Pass or S Pass holders can have Dependant’s Pass. In addition, Long Term Visit Pass is for parents, common-law spouses, step-children or handicapped children of eligible Employment Pass or S Pass holders.
  • Your cover letter, resume and portfolio must be of top quality and tailored for the job you are targeting. So keep it clean and presentable. Also, make sure the supporting documents are available should an employer ask for them.
  • Expect to compromise and take jobs that are not your top choice. Singapore’s industry is full of competition. So expect that not all conditions of an offered employment will be to your advantage. But remember that you are just starting. As you take care of your career, promotions will come your way.


Once you land in Singapore, consider no turning back. It is never easy to be in another country with a different culture. Know your rights and responsibilities as Singapore is known for the strict implementation of its laws.

Government Policy

  • Employed expats have protection under Singapore’s Employment Act. But it does not cover those with managerial & executive positions, domestic workers, seamen, and most government staff. Know if you are under its protection and the limitations of this law.
  • Employment Act gives additional protection to employees with a monthly income of less than SGD 2,000. They are entitled to rest days, hours of work, annual leave and other conditions of service. However, the basic salary does not include bonuses, overtime, incentives, and allowance.
  • A foreigner working in Singapore who acquired Singaporean citizenship is liable to pay income tax and complete the IR8A form. Non-resident expats must pay their income tax according to their employment status. Also, you can submit tax returns by post or through e-filing at Some employers file the income tax returns of their employees. If they don’t, you are responsible for it yourself.
  • To import a pet into the country, you need to apply for an AVA license from Singapore’s Agri-food & Veterinary Authority. There are only certain breeds that you can transport to Singapore. So can check AVA’s website and see the requirements and accepted pets.

Adjustment for a Foreigner Working in Singapore

  • Expect the country is warm and dry. It will be a challenge for those coming from western countries. However, those coming from tropical countries may adjust well. But those coming from western countries may need more time.
  • Singapore utilizes right-hand driving. It will take some time for a foreigner working in Singapore to adjust if you are used to left-hand drive. So make sure that you get used to it. Practice helps avoid traffic rules violations. Also, you can use your own driving license. But you must convert to a Singapore driving license after a year.
  • You do not have to worry much about coming to Singapore if your first language is English. People in Singapore speak, write and understand English. Also, the road and street signs are in English.
  • Singaporeans usually work overtime. They do not complain despite strict work ethics. Sometimes, they stay at work even in the wee hours.
  • The cost of living is high. If you can’t balance your finances, you can get an expat loan from a licensed moneylender recognized by the Registry of Moneylenders. It is hard to get an expat loan from banks. Typically, they have brick-and-mortar policies. Plus, they offer very high-interest rates. However, online licensed money lenders have fewer requirements and can quickly approve your loan less than a week.

Suppose you decide to set up your own business instead of working under someone else’s company. In that case, Singapore is also the best place for you. They welcome foreign investors and businesses in their constantly growing industry. In addition, Singapore is famous for its clean government. There is no corruption in the government. So rest assured, clean transactions are waiting for you.


Ministry of Manpower | Foreigner Working in Singapore

  1. Meet the eligibility requirements set by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). MOM has the right to review and validate your requirements subject to approval.
  2. According to Singapore’s regulations, you need to appoint two local agents. Consider Singapore Ordinarily Residents who live in Singapore for a long-term). It is especially for expats who may not stay in Singapore for more than 2 years.
  3. You must have an EntrePass processed by MOM. Also, it must be valid for two years. Entre Pass is your pass if you are going o Singapore as an entrepreneur.
  4. Choose a valid name. Then, check its availability through ACRA’s online directory of businesses on BizFile. Your company name must not be provocative.
  5. Register your business with the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) online at Bizfile. Make sure all the info is correct. Be honest. Open a Singapore bank account.
  6. Select a location where you will put up your business. If you do not need a physical location, you can use a virtual address.
  7. Acquire business permits or licenses required according to your business type.
  8. Open a bank account either locally or offshore. If you need extra cash, you can apply for a personal loan from a legal moneylending firm. However, applying for a loan in banks may take more time than expected.
  9. Recruit employees through Singapore’s recruitment portals and agencies.
  10. If you are putting up a business in finance, banking or insurance, you can approach the Monetary Authority of Singapore. As for other industries, feel free to come to International Enterprise Singapore. The Legal Services Regulatory Authority is more than willing to help with legal issues.
  11. If you are in doubt, seek advice from a professional service firm. For example, if you need a loan, take some time and visit or call a moneylender’s office. They will immediately evaluate your documents and give extra tips on your finances.


A foreigner working in Singapore may be a dream for many. But you also have to work hard to enjoy your worthwhile stay. As an expat, you will need time to adjust to the culture, weather, work ethics, and lifestyle. Work may be hard but do not forget to enjoy the opportunity of being in Singapore.